Fire Up Your Company’s Success by Knowing
How and When to Hire

by Dennis LaRosee

What’s the secret ingredient for a roaring fire in your fireplace — the kind of fire that comforts you for hours on a bone-chilling night? Is it the aging of your wood, the choice of oak over birch, or the ratio of kindling to logs? While all these considerations are important, the crucial ingredient is attention. How consistently you tend the flames determines their ultimate shape and intensity.

I think of the fireplace image when clients ask, “When is it safe to hire again?” Their concern is timely. As we gradually move into a period of new growth, companies are naturally cautious about planning for additional salaries. The questions they may forget to ask, however, are: “Where are we heading? What will be the shape of our business in six months, next year and in two years? Who are the people we need now to get there? Are we ‘stoking the embers’ enough to meet our future goals?”

Just as manufacturers buy raw materials with an eye toward current business conditions and future opportunities, large and small organizations should be forward thinking when they evaluate investments in their people. Consider the following as you develop a hiring framework:

  • What is the current state of our employment situation? Are we fully staffed or are our people approaching burnout from too much overtime? Take the temperature of your organization.

  • At what point in the future do you expect market conditions to evolve, resulting in increased demand for your products?

  • Given the timing of that demand, what resources will you need to have in place—in sales, customer service, manufacturing, and logistics, for instance:

    • To what extent can your current workforce stretch to meet those demands?

    • Will key people be able to hit the ground running when demand increases?

    • What is the optimal lead time for hiring to enable these people to succeed?

In short, companies need to be able to accept the risk of making reasonable predictions about their businesses’ growth, and continually plan for the people who will help them sustain those expectations. This, of course, requires expertise in understanding the ideal behaviors and drives of individuals who will be most successful in key roles.

Those drives will change as the business environment evolves. Iron Mountain Records Management provides an excellent illustration. Its parent company, Iron Mountain Inc., has achieved an enviable reputation as the world’s trusted partner for outsourced records and information management services — with more than 200,000 customer accounts and 53 years of success.

At a point when revenues for Iron Mountain Records Management had grown from $100 million to nearly $1 billion, the company took a renewed look at its people. Management realized it needed different kinds of individuals to rise to the next plateau.

In its high-growth stage, the company had sought out employees who could sustain a fast pace. In a new expansion phase, it needed people who could think strategically, marshal teams together and communicate effectively. The company began building behavioral profiles of ideal candidates, with emphasis on strategic and people skills. Applicants for new positions also completed a workplace personality survey to help Iron Mountain Records Management place them in positions that would leverage their “behavioral strengths”. Among resulting benefits: improved employee retention, better understanding of how to bring out the best in individual employees, and more powerful teams as the company moved ahead.

If, like Iron Mountain Records Management, you envision expansion opportunities, take a renewed look at your current people, too. In addition to hiring, should you be redesigning specific positions to gain more from your existing people? Should you shift people into new roles — particularly at the senior level? Are your current leaders able to capitalize on the new opportunities at hand?

This is a particularly important consideration if your organization is emerging from a hiring freeze or a period of downsizing. Companies in those situations often give their remaining employees additional responsibilities without fully considering whether this will improve or reduce their ability to succeed. For example, after layoffs, businesses may simply shift the responsibilities of terminated employees to those closest to them. Now is the time to reevaluate these assignments — and remove the burden from those individuals who will gain new energy and improve performance when their jobs fit their “workplace personalities” once more.

No matter what the season — or the current economic barometer — companies should fan the flames of growth through their people. Spark existing employees’ productivity by matching them with jobs that fit like a glove. Understand where your next windows of opportunity lie, and in what areas you should be staffing — or realigning — now to prepare. What behavioral strengths will individuals need to succeed in these key positions — and to fire up your success? For blazing growth, a continual look at hiring is essential.

Dennis LaRosee is Senior Vice President of PI Worldwide, an international management consulting organization headquartered in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Using a proven, proprietary management tool known as the Predictive Index®, as well as a flexible suite of skills-based workshops (the Predictive Leadership Series), PI Worldwide helps companies align individual performance with their specific business goals for improved bottom-line performance, productivity and profitability. Contact Dennis at and visit

Many more articles in The HR Refresher in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2005 by Dennis LaRosee. All rights reserved.

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